In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew, Jesus instructs his disciples in how to deal with someone who has wronged them. First, the wronged individual should speak to the wrongdoer and try to help him see his transgression. If that doesn’t work, one must take a couple of others to help the person see his fault. If that fails, bring the church community to help speak to him. Jesus ends his instruction with words we are all familiar with: “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
I resonated with the temptation Kayla McClurg speaks of in her commentary on this passage:
Sometimes, in a blissfully quiet moment, or when we are tired and disappointed in ourselves and others, we hear a sneaky little voice telling us we might be better off attempting this journey alone. We can discern our own callings, read thought-provoking books, join an online community, work on loving humanity while avoiding actual people.
As tempting as that can be, as McClurg reminds, “for better and for worse, we are not alone. We have companions.”
Speaking of Jesus’ instruction, she writes:
Jesus says, I know your community, how obstinate and annoying they can be, how they sometimes speak ill of you and blame you for their own problems. I called all of you together, remember? What I’d like for you to learn is not to puff up like a self-righteous toad, or point out how highly regarded and generally well-liked you are. No, this is the time to practice what I have told you will be your primary work—forgive, and live in peace. First, go right to the source of your pain and say what is bothering you. Who knows, maybe you old scoundrels will hear each other this time. You’ll both have a laugh and be done with it. If you get no response, go again and take one or two others along. If the person who is on the outs with you still won’t listen, go to the entire church membership. Not to prove how right you are, but because this is the group that is committed to forgiving one another as I have forgiven you. Together you share responsibility for finding ways to live together in the bonds of unity and peace.
Did you forget that this is the final goal? Not to make everyone feel better, not to decide who is right and wrong, but to bring back together whatever has come apart—to mend whatever breaks.
An important reminder. We are a community, members of the Body of Christ. And we correct another, not to prove we are right, but because of our commitment to living together in unity and peace; our goal is bring back together what has come apart.